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The Firehouse from “Ghostbusters”

Feb 12th, 2010 | By | Category: Movie Locations

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This past weekend while doing some stalking in Downtown L.A. I dragged my fiancé out to see an oft-used filming location that has long been at the top of my “To-Stalk” list.  That location is known as Fire Station #23, a real life former working fire house that served as the offices of Dr. Raymond Stantz (aka Dan Aykroyd), Dr. Peter Venkman (aka Bill Murray), Dr. Egon Spengler (aka Harold Ramis), and Winston Zeddmore (aka Ernie Hudson) in the 1984 movie Ghostbusters.  And as fate would have it, when we pulled up to the now-defunct fire station, the caretaker of the property, an EXTREMELY nice man named Daniel Taylor, happened to be standing outside speaking with a student filmmaker.  So, I, of course, struck up a conversation with him and asked if it might be alright if I stepped inside to take a look around and snap a few photographs.  And, let me tell you, I just about fell over from excitement when Daniel told me to go right in!  YAY!

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Fire Station #23 actually has quite a storied, and sometimes scandalous, history.  The structure, which first opened on October 2, 1910, was designed by the prominent architectural firm of Hudson & Munsell and served as the headquarters of the Los Angeles Fire Department for over a decade.  The three story building, which cost between $57,000 and $60,000 to construct and measured 26 feet wide, 167 feet deep and encompassed 13,600 square feet of space, has been mired in controversy ever since the day it was first dedicated.  In the beginning, angry citizens deemed the construction costs far too steep for a public building, especially since tax payers were footing the bill and considering the extravagance with which the place was built.   And it has been said that no other fire station in the country is as opulent.  The top floor of the structure housed the Fire Chief’s suite, an apartment which every fire chief from 1910 to 1928 called home.  The suite featured a marble bathroom complete with a double bathtub, Peruvian mahogany wall paneling, imported Italian tile detailing, oak flooring, a private elevator, a brass bed, a roof garden, a marble fireplace, and French bevel glass mirrors.  The second floor contained the captain’s dwelling, a library with built-in bookshelves, and bunks for twenty firefighters.  The bottom floor contained an open arcade with enamel tiled walls, 21 foot high pressed tin ceilings, and stalls to accommodate ten horses.  Pretty amazing for a fire house, huh?  The Los Angeles Times even dubbed the place “the Taj Mahal of fire stations”.

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Fire Station #23 remained in operation for fifty years, whereupon its men responded to over 60,000 fires.  But with the city moving towards building more modernized stations, Engine Truck Company #23 closed its doors for good on November 23rd, 1960.  Because a station in Pacific Palisades adopted the “23” company number, the shuttered station took on the name “Old 23”.  For the next six years, the fire department utilized the space for medial records storage and as a training facility.  In 1966, the same year it became a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, the fire house was shut down by the department completely.  For the next ten years, as the area surrounding the building became more and more impoverished, the station fell into serious disrepair and suffered from extreme vandalism and looting.  In 1979, the Fire Commission decided to renovate the property and eventually turn it into a firehouse museum.  A non-profit organization named Olde 23 was set up to oversee the restoration process and to raise funds for the massive undertaking.  In 1980, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  Nine years later, though, in 1988, the plans for turning Old #23 into a museum were nixed and the city opened their Los Angeles Fire Department Museum at a location in Hollywood instead.

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Seven years later controversy came raining down upon the fire house once again when Los Angeles Times staff writer Robert J. Lopez authored a front page article accusing the Olde 23 corporation of misuse of funds.  According to the article, Olde 23 had been collecting massive amounts of money (over $210,000 to be exact) thanks to the numerous film shoots that had taken place on the premises over the years.  Not only had the company failed to turn that money over to the city, though, but no one had even informed the city that any sort of filming was going on.  Being that a city department is responsible for handing out film permits, I’m not quite sure how this even happened, but I guess it’s just another case of a beaurocracy’s right hand not knowing what the left is doing.  Causing further scandal was the fact that even though the city had moved the museum location to a different site seven years prior, Olde 23 was still collecting not only filming fees that would supposedly go into the museum fund, but also donations for the project.  AND (yes, there’s more!) the supposed non-profit was ALSO collecting filming fees from production companies for shoots that were taking place at other firehouses in the area – firehouses that the Olde 23 company had no jurisdiction over!  LOL  Talk about a sh*tstorm!!  😉  President and C.E.O. of the Olde 23 company was none other than Los Angeles Fire Chief Donald O. Manning himself, who resigned from his post just 8 days after Lopez’s newspaper article hit the stands.   Following his resignation, Fire Station #23 continued to host film shoots, with the money going to the City of Los Angeles, the property’s rightful owner.  Just this past September, though, the building was designated surplus property and the city is considering selling it to several different private investors, including a restaurant developer and a non-profit arts education group.

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Daniel Taylor, who has been caretaker of the property since 1985 and who the city is currently trying to evict, has different plans for the building, though.  He recently formed the Corporation for History, Arts, and Culture (CHAC) with the hopes of restoring the old firehouse to its original grandeur for use as both a cultural center and a filming location.  He estimates the restoration project to cost upwards of $8 million and is trying to raise funds now.  If you would like to learn more about the cause, you can do so on CHAC’s official website.  And while the future of the historic firehouse remains to be seen, in the meantime I highly recommend stalking it as it is a truly beautiful and unique building.

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In Ghostbusters, the exterior of the gang’s headquarters (pictured above) was actually filmed at Hook & Ladder Company #8 located at 14 North Moore Street in New York.

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But for the interior filming, cast and crew came to Fire Station #23 in Downtown Los Angeles.  And I am happy to report that the interior looks almost exactly the same today as it did in 1984 when Ghostbusters was filmed!  Amazing!

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The boys’ back office area is not there in real life, though, and I am assuming it was just a set that was added solely for the filming.

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The upstairs of the firehouse was used in the filming, as well, but unfortunately I didn’t get to see that area while I was there.

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Five years later cast and crew returned to Fire Station #23 once again to film the interior scenes for Ghostbusters II.

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And I just about died when I spotted the wooden wall adornment pictured above, which was featured in the sequel.  So cool!

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The firehouse was also featured in 1994’s The Mask, in which it doubled as Jim Carrey’s deceitful car mechanic’s office.

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He later vandalizes the place after turning into “The Mask”.

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In 2003’s National Security, the firehouse was used as the location of Earl Montgomery (aka Martin Lawrence) and Hank Rafferty (aka Steve Zahn’s) stakeout.  Only the exterior of the building and a very small portion of the interior (pictured above) were featured in that shoot, though.  Firehouse #23 has also appeared in V.I. Warshawski, Police Academy 2, Flatliners, Set It Off, RE(e)volution, Big Trouble in Little China, in the television series Firehouse, and in the Season 4 episode of The A-Team entitled “The Road to Hope”.  All in all, it has been featured in more than 50 commercial, television, movie, and music video productions over the years.

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  :)

Stalk It: Fire Station #23, aka the firehouse from Ghostbusters, is located at 225 East Fifth Street in Downtown Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, the station is not in the safest of areas, so please exercise caution if you choose to stalk it.  You can visit the CHAC Fire Station #23 website here.

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7 comments

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  1. Brad says:

    Wow! Burning with jealousy here…

  2. Virginie says:

    hi Lindsay,
    I just found out that some what down the street from Engine 23, they filmed a scene from Material Girls. It ‘s the scene where Hilary and Haylie Duff wait for the bus. It was filmed on the corner of 5th Ave and S Los Angeles street in front of a couple of stores (Angel Toy Co, 211 E 5th Street). It is not the best of movies, I know, but I still like it because of Hilary Duff. I’m still trying to figure out where the rest of the movie was filmed.
    until next time!
    Virginie

  3. Great write-up. I just posted a link to this article on Twitter.

    If you’re interested, check out my page for the firehouse on my Ghostbusters website:

    http://www.ecto-web.org/~spookcentral/loc_la_firehouse.htm

  4. Barry says:

    I wonder if they will be using it for Ghostbusters 3?. It’s going to start filming this summer.

  5. Raul Moreno says:

    This is one of the few stations from the horse era still around here in LA.It is AMAZING!!!!! There are some great pictures at http://www.lafire.com Yeah,that is in Skid Row.Not a great area.The fire station that covers that area (Task Force 9) is the busiest in the US with 86 calls a day.This was also used in a 70’s pilot for a tv show called Firehouse.


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